If you think being vegan and skipping out on processed ingredients is going to leave you without some goooood ice cream, you, my friend, are sorely mistaken. The base of my ice cream is made using only four ingredients. You heard me. Then, I add in hazelnuts and chocolate shavings to give a little crunch and pizzazz. Trust me, this stuff is insanely creamy, decadent, and indulgent, but healthily so. You're gonna dig it.
As I said, this recipe requires only four ingredients for the chocolate base, then two more that you fold in later. That's insane, right?! I use full-fat coconut milk because it will lend the creamiest, thickest base to the ice cream. If you want to cut down on fat, you can substitute one cup of almond milk or other non-dairy milk for one cup of coconut milk, but keep in mind it won't be as creamy in texture and may even get a bit icy. Also keep in mind that although coconut milk is high in fat, it's good-for-you fat! In moderation, coconut milk and meat helps with immune system health, heart disease prevention, healthy skin and hair, and increased metabolism. Now I'm not saying, eat this whole tub of coconut milk ice cream in one sitting. What I am saying is that a scoop or two of this ice cream is a great alternative to guilt-inducing, dairy-loaded, refined-sugar laden ice cream, plus it has some health benefits!
The other ingredients in this ice cream are equally yummy and healthy. I use dates as the only sweetener and binding agent because they are amazing! Dates are loaded with fiber, potassium, and B-vitamins, and have been shown to actually lower cholesterol. While some people may worry about the sugar content of dates, they are actually low on the glycemic index, meaning they barely raise blood sugar. These babies have their own natural fruit sugars which are wrapped up in a perfect nutritional package for our bodies. Next, I used raw cacao powder, but feel free to use non-alkalized cocoa powder. Cocoa powder has an antidepressant effect on the human body (no wonder eating it makes us happy!) and is loaded with antioxidants. Using raw cacao powder will increase these benefits because it hasn't lost any of it's properties through heating. Last, for the base, I add vanilla extract. Vanilla is said to be an aphrodisiac (oh la la!) plus it can alleviate anxiety and reduce free-radicals in the body. And that's the chocolate ice cream base!
After churning the ice cream, you're more than welcome to leave it as is. It's seriously delicious stuff on it's own. But, I add hazelnuts to lend that popular and decadent "nutella" taste and a bit of crunch. Hazelnuts are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. I roast them a little to bring out that luxurious flavor. I also add chopped dark chocolate to add more crunch and more chocolate (is there ever enough?). I like to use Green & Black's Dark 70% chocolate because it's vegan and made with the highest quality organic ingredients, plus they only use fair and sustainable business practices.
I included it in the recipe, but if you don't have an ice cream maker, don't fret; this how-to guide by David Lebovitz tells you how to make ice cream without a machine! Now everyone can enjoy!
Vegan Chocolate & Hazelnut Ice Cream
Makes about a pint
2 (13.5 oz.) cans of full-fat coconut milk
12 dates, pitted
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
½ c. cacao or cocoa powder
½ c. hazelnuts
2 oz. vegan dark chocolate, about ⅔ cup chopped (I use this)
In a food processor or high-powered blender, puree the coconut milk and dates. Add the vanilla and cacao powder and process again until smooth. Transfer to a container and place in the fridge for about an hour, or until it’s chilled. This is your chocolate ice cream base.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400ºF. Spread the hazelnuts onto a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the center of the nuts are golden brown and fragrant. Let cool then chop and set aside.
Once the ice cream base has chilled, transfer to your ice cream maker and churn until frozen and fluffy (or use this guide to making ice cream without a machine). Transfer your ice cream to a freezer-friendly container and gently fold in the cooled, chopped hazelnuts and chopped dark chocolate. Place in the freezer to harden for pretty scoops.
To serve, take the container out of the freezer and let sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes, until it’s scoopable. Top with more hazelnuts and chocolate. Enjoy!